Small Company Winners


First Place: NO JOKE

While the subject of electronic payments may seem a little unexciting, life is anything but for the employees of The CashLINQ Group, a Spokane-based company that delivers payment-processing solutions to clients throughout the United States and Canada. Take Walt Maxwell, a sales developer for the 11-year-old company. He went out to lunch one day and returned to find that his co-workers had packed everything in his office into boxes, complete with a fake pink slip and his “final paycheck.”

Maxwell took the joke in stride. It wasn’t the first time his fun-loving colleagues got a laugh at his expense and it probably won’t be the last. CashLINQ is a place where employees paint the boss’s office pink and where Nerf gun wars can break out at any moment.

“We’re a sarcastic group,” says Foster Chase, the company’s president and founder. “If you’re thin-skinned, it may be rough!”

Founded in 1999, CashLINQ provides software that allows nonprofit agencies—mainly churches and Christian ministries—to receive and process donations online. And it’s not always all fun and games at company headquarters. With only 30 people on staff, workers need to be willing to jump in and help out where needed. The ideal employee is flexible, able to juggle multiple priorities and be up for a challenge, says Chase.

The hiring process ensures that those brought on board will fit into the “work hard, play hard” culture. Potential hires participate in several individual and group interviews to ensure that, among other things, their personalities will mesh with the rest of the crew.

Those who are hired feel it’s all worth it. Many speak of an atmosphere and a sense of compassion uncommon in a corporate setting. When a friend of his was dying of cancer, Maxwell says, “it wasn’t even a question” that he would be able to take time off to spend with her.

As one employee noted anonymously in the Best Companies to Work For survey: “The company culture is unique. We are allowed to be ourselves, laugh at ourselves, vent if needed.... Leadership understands that an atmosphere without fear is the most productive.” —S.B.C.

Second Place: STURDY LINKS

You may never have heard of Buckland & Taylor, but chances are good that you’ve admired its work. Based in Lower Queen Anne, the American office of the Canadian bridge-design firm has worked on some of the most stunning spans on the continent, including the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver, B.C., and the Alsea Bay Bridge in Waldport, Ore. The company’s employees are no less prized than its projects. With full health insurance, a nine-day fortnight—that’s every other Friday off—and a comprehensive, companywide personal development plan initiative, Buckland & Taylor’s workforce satisfaction is as sturdy as the bridges it designs. —N.H.


Brightlight Consulting, which finished fifth in this category a year ago—has continued its upward trajectory in the past 12 months. The firm, which specializes in business intelligence and data warehousing, provides its employees with a work/life balance that’s unusual in the consulting world. In addition to industry-best benefits such as full health coverage, generous vacation time and paid training and tuition reimbursement, Brightlight’s workers enjoy a companywide open-door policy and they’re encouraged to bring their pets (and their kids) to work. —N.H.

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